Next week, the Alliance will host its long-awaited West Coast conference. This year’s event represents a focused opportunity to address an often-overlooked population: individual homeless adults
The sessions will take into account many subpopulations among individual adults, including veterans, youth over the age of 18, and people experiencing chronic homelessness.
But much of the content will be about everyone else. This includes people without children with them, people who don’t have a severe disability, and people without access to veteran resources. The challenge is figuring out how to help this group, by working at the local, state, and national level.
Five Big Questions
Everyone is coming to learn, including the Alliance staff. Here are some of the questions we have:
- The approach: Do we have the right approach for individual adults? Our experience tells us that the key is to connect people with housing as quickly as possible, then do everything we can so they can maintain it independently. But we also know there have been some implementation issues for individual adults, and it’s time to discuss them.
- Racial disparities: It’s clear that there are racial disparities among people experiencing homelessness. But what are the challenges for people working on programs or systems? What more can and should we all be doing to make sure that people of color have at least as good a chance of escaping homelessness as white people? Most workshops – no matter the specific topic — will address this challenge.
- Unsheltered homelessness: The rate of unsheltered homelessness is the highest for individual adults. This isn’t just a problem for big expensive cities. Will concentrating on this problem require different approaches or reallocation of resources? Are there things we can do to get some immediate impact, that will also build political support for longer term solutions?
- Housing First: The phrase “Housing First” implies an overall approach for a homelessness system, concentrating on getting people housed as quickly as possible and in the greatest numbers possible. This approach is a big part of why many communities have reduced their numbers. But there is always opposition to this approach. As we focus on a new part of the homelessness problem, how do we continue to make the case for Housing First? The conference will be backed with examples and analyses about why this approach gets results.
- Housing Models: What kind of housing is enough? Based on HUD standards, “housing” is usually thought to refer to an apartment on your own. That is not, however, how most low-income people live. On the other hand, the housing conditions faced by low-income people in the U.S. are atrocious, and improving them is part of the work the Alliance does. This raises the question, particularly for individual adults: are there low-cost alternatives to “each in their own apartment” that meet our standards? Would adopting these alternatives help stretch funds further, and get more people off the streets?
There’s plenty of other content, but these are the big questions we have. As always, we’re looking forward to engaging with you on them, and on any other questions you think are important.
Follow Along at Home
If you’re not in attendance, there is good news: the Alliance will once again be live streaming the plenaries in full, from our Facebook page. And of course, we invite you all to follow along on Twitter for insights from attendees and Alliance staff. This year’s hashtag is #NAEH2019.
Best wishes to all attendees for a successful conference!